Every year, a group of graduating physical therapy students from Creighton University travel to the Dominican Republic (DR) to provide physical therapy services through the Institute for Latin American Concern (ILAC) in a variety of clinical settings, like hospitals, outpatient facilities, an orphanage, in campo (a rural village), and in individuals’ homes. The students provide treatment to their patients with mentorship from their clinical instructors and provide pro bono physical therapy clinics at the ILAC center multiple times per week. They also provide donated durable medical equipment to children and other patients who might not have known they would benefit from it or who may not have had access to it otherwise. This year, Creighton University sent two board certified women’s health clinical specialist physical therapists (PT) to the DR, Julie Peterson in February with a group of OBGYNs, and Jenna Iberle in April with the physical therapy students as a clinical instructor, in order to provide general and women’s health focused physical therapy to the people of the community.
Julie Peterson, PT, DPT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Women’s Health, Assistant Professor, Director of Creighton Therapy and Wellness:
" During my time in the DR, I joined a team of women’s healthcare providers including physicians, medical students, nurses, and nursing students. We provided education on self-care techniques for urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain. Many of the women we served in the DR do not have have accessible healthcare or minimal services are available. In addressing cura personalis with the women I interacted with, part of treating the whole person includes conversations around sexual health and wellness. Charlas [formal and informal presentations] were provided to review anatomy and physiology of bladder, bowel, and the pelvic floor. We also treated women with pelvic pain associated with sexual intercourse. Vaginal dilators were not readily available, so we improvised and identified other medical supplies that could accomplish the same thing, which really required looking for creative opportunities for the betterment of women in the DR. "
Jenna Iberle, PT, DPT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Women’s Health, Instructor, Creighton Therapy and Wellness:
" During my time in the DR, I was able to meet with a women’s health physical therapist who owns her own practice and treats both men and women for pelvic health and women’s health related conditions such as one would find in the United States, such as urinary and fecal incontinence, chronic pelvic pain, dyspareunia, and perinatal pain complaints. We discussed the importance of informing the public about our role as healthcare providers more thoroughly in order to empower patients to have more control over their bodies and their ability to participate in the most basic to the most intimate aspects of life. We discussed opportunities for collaboration with future women’s health PT residents of Creighton University while they visit in the spring, and the larger group of PT students will continue to serve residents of the DR in the aforementioned settings. We feel very hopeful and excited about being able to work together to provide international collaborative care for our patients and expand research projects between both Creighton and those healthcare providers in the DR."
The trip to the DR was a catalyst for re-energizing me as a clinician and reminding me why I love what we do as physical therapists. It highlighted the importance of collaboration within our profession, whether it’s with other clinicians in our clinic or specialty area, internationally with other PTs, or interprofessionally with other members of the healthcare team. As physical therapists we are best equipped to help our patients meet their goals and improve their quality of life when we let go of the need to be the best and instead work together with other clinicians to be our best to keep pushing our profession and patient gains forward. We must not be complacent with our current skill set and always seek ways to improve our patient care, whether that is in this country or abroad, to help bring independence and joy back into our patients’ lives.